In light of the growing heroin epidemic across New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has convened a special task force to look at more ways to combat the crisis. The new task force will make recommendations on legislative, policy, law enforcement and insurance changes that will hopefully help to slow the heroin and opioid crisis in New York.
In light of the growing heroin epidemic across New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has convened a special task force to look at more ways to combat the crisis.
Members of the task force will hold listening sessions across the state and then provide the governor with recommendations on legislative, policy, law enforcement and insurance changes that will hopefully help to slow the heroin and opioid crisis in New York.
Over the past several years a number of reforms that aim to address the issue have been implemented but overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in New York. A major issue for families dealing with addiction is getting insurance coverage for those who want to enter in-patient treatment.
Lori Drescher is from Rochester but travels to work with families dealing with addiction. It’s a battle her son has been facing for the past eight years.
She says new laws mandating insurance companies cover addiction care have helped but there’s a long way to go. "Yeah, there has been some progress but I don't think anybody is equipped to deal with the epidemic that is upon us,” she tells News10NBC.
More than 700 people are currently in treatment at Strong Recovery at the University of Rochester Medical Center and there’s a waiting list of hundreds more looking to get in.
“We've had people die on our waiting list unfortunately,” says Patrick Seche, the center’s director.
Seche has been asked to sit on the Governor’s task force and says one of his main focuses will be working with insurance companies.
“Those with an addiction should normally spend at least two to four weeks in-patient but a lot of it is determined by the insurance companies because they'll only pay for a week,” he says.
Limits are something Lori and the other families know well. “Some have been told, 'you’ll only get coverage for three days then unless you're willing to pay $650 out of your pocket to stay here every day, you must leave.' Now you tell that to a heroin addict who is in the throes of withdrawal and can get drugs for $10 on the street. What do you think they will choose? This disease does not wait for us to find a bed or for insurance companies to negotiate five days of care at a time” she says.
“Health insurers are required by the law to treat mental health and addiction recovery services the same as other medical claims,” says New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman issued an alert encouraging those seeking treatment or facing barriers with their health insurer to call his office’s Health Care Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.
Strong Recovery will be adding 300 more beds at its in-patient facility this fall, hoping to put a dent in the waiting list of those looking for care.